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Urban Violence Drawing Attention

Rell Meets With Mayors, Including Political Challengers

February 15, 2006
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer

Gov. M. Jodi Rell sat at one end of a long table. Her Democratic challengers, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Stamford Mayor Dannel P. Malloy, sat on opposite sides at the other end.

The topic Tuesday at Rell's closed-door meeting at the Capitol with more than a dozen mayors was how to curb urban violence. Participants said the tone was polite and the conversation direct, even with three major gubernatorial candidates seated at the table.

"We all agree this is something we have to work on together," Rell said after the meeting, as Malloy peered over her shoulder and DeStefano stood to the side. "It is not about politics. It is about doing something to protect our children."

The Republican governor said she was open to revising her proposed budget to respond to mayoral concerns, including a complaint by DeStefano that her budget would provide $750,000 in new anti-crime funds, yet end an effective $850,000 youth program.

"I think he brings up a good point," Rell said. "Maybe we will go back and take a look."

The Democrats said the meeting was an appreciated gesture, but Rell's budget will be a better measure of her commitment to fighting urban crime, especially involving the young.

"I appreciate the meeting, but the direction and vision of the state gets shaped in the budget, and it wasn't there," DeStefano said.

Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez handed Rell a petition from civic leaders in Hartford who are asking Rell for more resources to fight a recent spate of shootings. Rev. Cornell Lewis and other activists marched to the Capitol to present the petitions.

Before the meeting, Malloy and DeStefano each released similarly named anti-crime plans directed at keeping young people from trouble.

With his "Connecticut Youth Action Plan," DeStefano would use expanded youth employment and counseling to attack teen violence.

Malloy issued a "Connecticut Youth Development Initiative" that focused on mentoring, youth employment and partnerships with community organizations.

The two mayors called for the passage of legislation that would require the reporting by gun owners of lost or stolen guns, a measure that Perez asked Rell to endorse during their meeting.

Rell said she would study the measure, but sounded a skeptical note: "Most of the guns [traced to violent crimes] are not necessarily falling in the category of lost or stolen guns."

In separate interviews, DeStefano and Malloy said that Rell missed the point of the legislation, which they say is intended to strip criminals of a defense when their guns are traced to crimes.

"The reality is they currently have a defense," Malloy said. "Their defense is, `Oops, I lost it.' What we want to do is cut that line of retreat off."

"She didn't get it," DeStefano said.

Rell said the meeting Tuesday marked the beginning of a dialogue with the mayors.

"This is not an issue that is going to be solved in one meeting, on one day with one press release," Rell said. "We need to continue this dialogue."

Her dialogue eventually will include a series of gubernatorial debates with either Malloy or DeStefano, but Rell said the candidates ignored the politics for the day.

Rell insisted that talking policy with her opponents presented no awkwardness.

"I think it was fine working with them," she said. Then glancing over her shoulder, she added, "I hope."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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